By Lorraine U. Martinelle
Leah Nielsen, associate professor of creative writing, has multiple health issues that made grocery shopping during the COVID-19 spring shutdown risky. The University supported her—and many other employees—with a grocery delivery program on campus.
“I couldn’t risk going to the grocery store or sending my husband there,” Nielsen says. “We had been ordering groceries and having them delivered. It was a relief to get fresh produce—even a pineapple— that I know was handled by very few people who took every necessary precaution to get food to us safely.”
At the height of the pandemic, Westfield State University Dining Services offered a temporary grocery delivery program for employees so they could stay out of grocery stores and have a healthy supply of food.
“We tried to make it easier and safer for Westfield State employees to get basic groceries and to eat nutritious meals without risking going into a store,” Mary Reilly, executive chef of Dining Services, says. “We’re also trying to look out for the people who work for the grocery stores and try to keep up with the demand.”
Dining Services offered employees several packages to choose from based on themes: breakfast, basics, pantry basics, pizza party, fresh produce, and à la carte items. In early April, Easter and Passover packages were available. Once an order was placed, Reilly contacted the customer for payment information and to set up a time for contact-free pickup outside Westfield State’s Dining Commons.
Roughly 800 orders for 15,000 individual items were made.
Receiving different foods each week inspired Nielsen, who was planning to try a new cooking technique: pickling.
“One thing I love about getting a box of fresh produce is that it forces me to be creative and to try new foods,” she says. “I would never buy a bag of peppers to pickle, but I can’t wait to try them.”
She adds, “Thank you to Chef Mary and the Dining Commons team for their hard work on our orders; we are grateful for all they have done to help the campus community at this time.”
Stephen Lee, director of clinical education in Westfield State’s physician assistant program, also praised the program, Reilly, and the Dining Services staff.
“It is wonderful to see people coming together to help each other and their community,” he says. “These days, it’s difficult to find good produce; however, the box I received was filled with ample vegetables and fruit that our family will definitely enjoy.”